I would like to share what captivated me most about my time spent in Romania.
A bowl of Ciorbă soup. Wikimedia Commons photo by Golf Bravo.
This sour soup, which usually consists of vegetables and meat, was a delicious treat at the holidays. A hardy and filling soup that was served with sour cream. Great to fill you up for a day of adventure or cure a slight hangover.
There are many variates that depend on the ingredients. Some include Ciorbă de praz, which consists of Leeks (something I learned to love while on the organic farm in The Netherlands) and Ciorbă de burtă consisting of Trip. Ciorbă de burtă is most likely the soup I enjoyed.
Romanian Pálinka will allways evoke feelings of warm friendship surrounded by great company, during a cold European winter. From nights with Czechs and Serbians in the basement of a hostel in Targu Mures, Romania to an holiday celebration with an international CouchSurfing cast.
This alcoholic beverage exists in differnt forms and is made from any number of sugary fruit. Common fruits include plum, apple, pear or pumace (left overs of pressed fruit). The manufacturing process varies as well, with larger commercial operations favoring multiple distillations in large copper pots or column stills. Copper stills, the traditional distillation method yield higher quality, though more expensive Pálinka.
Recent EU regulations has legislated what can legally be branded and sold as Pálinka. These spirits distilled and bottled in Hungary, with fruit grown in the Carpathian Basin region (within Hungarian borders) have an alcohol content between 37% and 86%. This law has forced many spirits traditionally labeled as Pálinka to be renamed 'spirit drinks' in Romania. A point of contention for some citizens.
Much like unregulated, non-commercial moon shine made in the United States, often in homes in small batches, caution should be taken. Unsafe construction materials used in the still construction can create a product poisonous for human consumption. Untested alcohol concentrations can lead to alcohol poisoning if over consumed.
Atop Tâmpa Mountain in Brasov, Romania.
Often refereed to as the Eastern Carpathians, this segment of the Carpathian chain is situation in the north of Romania, largely in the Transylvania region. This area is rich in scenic beauty with the second highest peaks in the Carpathian chain, next to Slovakia.
More than rich in beauty, but natural resources and wildlife as well, housing some 65% of Europe's virgin forests. This area of Romania is in some ways, one of the last large unspoiled Eco-systems in Europe, save for Russia, where some of the last populations of bears, lynx and wolves exist in large numbers in the wild. While this area lacks year round snow capped peaks and glaciers, which exist in the Alps, many tourists come to enjoy skiing and Eco-toursim activities.
Eco-tourism in Romania has taken hold as it becomes an increasingly popular destination and well known for continued innovation in sustainable practices. Some resources if your planning such a trip, Association of Eco-tourism in Romania, Eco-Romania.ro and Roving Romania.
Saxon Fortified Church, Romania.
Saxon Fortified Churches
A particularly interesting piece of history. Saxon fortified Churches arose from communities of German immigrants and those from the Western Roman Empire who settled in Transylvania (than under the Hungarian Empire) under promises of land and preferential treatment by the Hungarian king. The region, under continues attack by the Ottoman Empire and Tartars during different points in history, made the construction of these churches a necessity of survival. Current as of October 2012, seven of these fortified churches are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites.
A unique little known tale. One version of the story of the pied piper comes from this mass migration of German immigrants. The piper, a supposed Hungarian King came to offer good farm land and preferential treatment in Transylvania to a famine struck and overpopulated region. He is cast as having lead away a large segment of the youthful population, who sought better opportunity. There are many versions to this tale, though I find this one Romantic and plausible.
Perhaps the greatest resource of any country or people, women are the glue which hold our tenuous social structures together. Though lovingly coupled at the time I did notice a determination, strength and elegant beauty inherent in Romanian women. How could you not be admire a country that produces the talented and lovely Alexandra Stan?